Pin It
Hood by Air

A collective, anarchic history of Hood By Air

Arca, Ian Isiah, Natasha Stagg, and more discuss the rise of Hood By Air: the brand blending high fashion and streetwear that astonished the fashion world this decade

Deep fakes, influencers, viral fashion – we live in a world unrecognisable from the one we stood in ten years ago. As a chaotic decade comes to a close, we're speaking to the people who helped shape the last ten years and analysing the cultural shifts that have defined them. Explore the decade on our interactive timeline here, or head here to check out all our features.

Under the codes and constructs of this century, end of decade requiems are nothing if not subjective. Social networks, atomised streaming, targeted advertising, and algorithmic feedback loops have secured each of us in our own nostalgia cycles of preferences, news, information, and aesthetics. 

Many years will have to pass before we truly reckon with the fallout of the 2010s and siphon out what was creatively significant and why. Still, at least in Dazed’s world, there seems to be a consensus around the colossal impact of one thing: the independent New York City fashion label and liberated style movement Hood By Air. As with most art of any consequence, HBA began as something so personally idiosyncratic as to be alienating: formed by Shayne Oliver, much of the DNA that would later define the ethos of the brand was present back in 2006 and 2007, forged from the designer's impulse to dress himself for going out – fearlessly faggoty and intimidatingly attired. Early Hood By Air presentations, held at Terence Koh’s A.S.S. gallery in Chinatown around 2008, reeked of confrontational, homosexual brutality. Early shoots featured homothugs in odalisque repose, dollar bills clipped into finger waves, cargo pants mutated into miniskirts, strappy shirts revealing taut, tantalising male flesh. 

By the time the brand went into its first HIATUS (as Oliver has come to refer to its absence, implying a gestation, or hibernation, of sorts) – co-designer Raul Lopez departed to the Dominican Republic to form his own design projects, later to emerge as Luar, a private fantasy world of re-alchemised macho basics as conceptually flamboyant power dressing. When Hood By Air re-emerged after its buzzy, screen-printed T-shirts popped up out of cult club night GHE20G0TH1K, the double-edged sword of social media spread the message faster and more ferociously than ever before. 

As Oliver sliced and speared his way through the fashion establishment with what can quite conservatively be labeled as America's most truly avant-garde fashion experiment in a generation, the media both basked in and cowered away from its spotlight, aware that it represented the rise of a bold new vision in fashion while distrusting – and misunderstanding – what it signified. Magazines and critics reduced the brand’s impact to buzzwords like “elevated streetwear”, while hip-hop stars blindly co-opted its codes without realising the queerness they were strapping on their backs. 

Now in its second HIATUS, HBA has never felt more present or more craved – its echoes pervade runways from Paris to Seoul, and its view of identity and gender subversion has established itself as a new standard of global, metropolitan masculinity, albeit in a way that feels somehow defanged and stripped of the audacity and authenticity that made it such a landmark then. Impossible to summarise, and even more futile to plant a flag upon, Hood By Air is best expressed by the people who were lucky enough to be there. Here, friends, colleagues, and contemporaries of Oliver's look back and recall a decade of Hood By Air.


I met Shayne at GHE20G0TH1K. At that point, Hood By Air was something I only had seen on Shayne’s T-shirt. GHE20G0TH1K and HBA were kind of in a state of merge at that point, and it was very exciting for me, having just moved from Venezuela to NYC, to go to GHE20G0TH1K – ever since one of their earliest parties in the basement of Fat Baby. I think HBA introduced a fresh energy to fashion, a vitality that was borne from the energy that resonated due to the diversity of the HBA family. Everyone that came together in those early days – journalists, musicians, painters, photographers, writers, poets, freaks, magicians, illusionists – every one of them is an artist in their own right. The space they created where people could come together and meet remains something I cherish to this day. I don’t know how Hood By Air shaped the decade, but it definitely foretold a lot of trends. There was a particular sensitivity to a world within a world that was created in which ideas could emerge and merge and differentiate in a very fertile loop. (I'll never forget) Hirakish running down the runway to ‘Oh Father’ by Madonna as shredded by Total Freedom!

“Everyone that came together in those early days – journalists, musicians, painters, photographers, writers, poets, freaks, magicians, illusionists – every one of them is an artist in their own right” – Arca


The first show was in a gallery somewhere in Chelsea. It was mainly Shayne’s friends and family in attendance. It was a modest but pure expression, as many first shows are, but I remember the leap from the first to the second show was major. From the second show, the stylistic language of HBA was codified. It introduced a type of streetwear fetish hybrid that hadn’t existed prior. It was a hood s&m extravaganza. HBA spawned a million imitators, but more importantly, it made New York Fashion Week cool again. New York fashion had been dowdy and bland for a minute until HBA and Telfar came in and gagged the girls. I think it will be easier for me to gauge the extent of HBA’s influence ten years from now, more time has to pass. My favorite memory is doing the soundtrack for HBA’s Superego collection with Venus X in Paris. The show was on a derelict skyscraper floor with views of the city I’d never seen before or since. It was like tossing mp3s into a black cauldron.


I first met Shayne Oliver and Raul Lopez in 2008, when I was 20 years old and had just moved to New York City. I had actually met Shayne earlier when I was 18 but that’s a story for another time. Shayne had a conviction very, very early on that what he was doing needed to be taken seriously: it wasn't juvenile and this wasn’t playtime. I remember Shayne and Raul taught me a lot about how to carry myself in downtown New York which was a far cry from the sunshine and roses and weed smoke I had grown up with in the Bay Area. Hood By Air think they invented everything, and they probably did. There is a lot of egocentrism involved in the history of Hood By Air but it has to do a lot with the truth not being told by the fashion industry, or by insiders who know the chronology of certain designs and design trends that Hood By Air christened or created. Looks and ideas (have been) lifted without credit, appropriated and not in the nice and politically correct 2019 way! No, they've just been fucking ripped off and stolen by fashion pirates. There's also a lot of racism as well, which I think a lot of white people in the industry chose to ignore because they were threatened by Shayne. Shayne is up there with the genius of Galliano or McQueen, and my girl is not done yet. Hood By Air raised an entire generation. They queered an entire generation.


My first impression of HBA was of an utterly new voice in American fashion, in every way. You know when you get that jolt from something… With me, it's usually music, but Shayne caught the same electricity in fashion. Fireflies in a bottle. It was also the coterie of people around him. It reminded me of the crowd of kids that coalesced around McLaren and Westwood’s shops in the 70s. The same degree of awe-inspiring hermeticism. The same appreciation of the enduringly irresistible lure of fashion as fetish. The same social radicalism. The effect of something like HBA lingers in the ether long after the actual entity has passed on. The scent of freedom. Cat's out of the bag, ain't goin' back in. Which is why my favourite moment was the Pilgrimage show, Fall 2016.  At the time, I called it a ritual that hinted at redemption through revolution. In other words, Hood By Air is now more relevant than ever.

“Hood By Air raised an entire generation. They queered an entire generation” – Mykki Blanco


I discovered an early HBA video online that blatantly fetishised a strain of New York City butch bravado. I remember it as featuring beautiful ruffneck Latin and black models wearing basketball shorts without underwear and du-rags. It embodied a type of masculinity that had captured my fantasies as a closeted suburban teenage jock. When Shayne first started to put his vision out in 2006, the cultural landscape was much more closeted. I was thrilled that a designer was fearless enough to launch their brand by queering this aggressive variant of masculinity and showcasing his own desires.I immediately wanted to know everything about HBA and who made it.

It translated the energy, ethos, flamboyance, aggression and showmanship of ballroom culture into a totally different entity: a streetwear brand. It demonstrated to a fashion audience that presenting as macho was just another type of drag. HBA’s rise was in tandem with the development of a new form of male shopper whose ego and masculinity were defined by hyper-specific cultural consumption, respect within this new audience was earned by having perfectly curated streetwear style, the original name for this new consumer was ‘Fuck Boy’. While the term has faded, the demographic has grown. HBA had a great deal of influence on the first incarnation of this consumer. It made aggressive clothes that were both butch and queer and demonstrated that this was not a paradox. It liberated gay aesthetics out of all previous mainstream clichés and for the first time made being associated with queer culture desirable and cool to men that weren't gay. As the ‘Fuck Boy’ phenomena mainstreamed and became big business, around the same period HBA stopped making clothes, these factors together allowed the genre to been stripped of its queer roots. HBA was pre-woke culture but it led as the first successful brand that was made by and referenced the culture of queer people of color. It declared that these previously ignored histories, talents and aesthetics mattered and could be considered valuable to a wider audience. This has now become a widely accepted view and something that many brands now try to integrate and capitalise on. Also, HBA designs are referenced today in all the Virgil Abloh collections for Louis Vuitton. 

When HBA was at its height of its straight ‘Fuck Boy’ dominance – adopted as the coolest streetwear for both rap stars and rich kids – it seemed almost as if the capitalist fetishisation of the brand was starting to ignore, erase or misinterpret its queerness. Shayne solved this by showing up to Art Basel Miami Beach and attending all the events as a sexy woman, with long blonde hair, micro mini skirts and high stiletto heels. This gesture of gender expression reminded his customers which queen was at the center of their favorite brand.  Other memorable moments were related to their fashion show casting. They always used the runway to make strong statements about who they considered beautiful and influential. They put art icon Wolfgang Tillmans on the runway, DJ Honey Dijion walked for them at a time long before trans women were celebrated, and punk artists Slava Mogutin and No Bra both walked for HBA.

“It reminded me of the crowd coalesced around McLaren and Westwood... The same degree of awe-inspiring hermeticism. The same appreciation of the enduringly irresistible lure of fashion as fetish. The same social radicalism” – Tim Blanks


Hood By Air blew my mind in every possible way! It changed e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. In every way –  just look at what everyone is doing, or trying desperately hard to do. The presence of HBA is more missed than ever. I recently found the invitation from HBA's SS15 show in Paris. It was a skinny black thong, with the address of an abandoned office block printed on it (the show's location). I also have the cough mixture bottle from the SS16 'Galvanize' show invite. My fondest memories are of course working with Shayne on Helmut Lang, a dream come true, and maddest year and a half of my life. 


I think HBA is the first queer ‘downtown’ label that is truly believable as a crossover lifestyle brand. From clothing, shoes, towels, pillows, salad bowls (which actually existed, thanks to DIS), even clothespins or toilet paper  – there’s nothing that would not make sense.


I've been to almost all of the Hood By Air shows, but the first time I saw HBA aside from being around Shayne and seeing him wearing his own line while living his teenage life was at Terence Koh’s gallery ASS in the Lower East Side. It was kind of a peep show, and sort of like a block-party-slash-art-opening type of thing. It was purely fun and wasn't trying to define what it was that was going on. At the time, it was basically Shayne plus two or three of his best friends – they were just being themselves and having a good time. As the brand grew into a business, it introduced the idea of young independence, and being a real and successful young independent fashion company. HBA can be whatever it wants to be, make whatever it wants to make, and is still speaking to a person or group of people that are truly independent individuals. Look around, look at fashion, look at yourself: it’s in the DNA of what it means to be a millennial, and it’s also super influential to how brands actually operate sales-wise to this day. My favourite memory is the SS16 show Galvanize in Paris. I got to walk the show instead of being a guest, in a way returning the gesture of support that Shayne gave me by walking my first runway show in 2005

“HBA can be whatever it wants to be, make whatever it wants to make, and is still speaking to a person or group of people that are truly independent individuals.” – Telfar Clemens


HBA is a headless brand for a headless world: a glam derangement, operating like a fungus thriving in the detritus of a dead planet.


HBA articulated a thing that had not been articulated, something that was in the shadows, something super complex and delicate and often hidden, but HBA gave it form, gave it a sound, a language. HBA made its own space and time. It liberated a regal dark side and tore open or tore down some stale old curtains and revealed what many startled people did not know was behind them. HBA shook up all kinds of shit because it was truly new, and it wasn’t just a look, it was an entire world order to consider. It was ACTUALLY punk, not fashion ‘referencing’ punk but something real and inimitable and very powerful. 


My first exposure to Hood By Air was through GHE20G0TH1K, which for me, when I first moved to the city, was by far the most powerful and alluring (and fresh and exciting) nightlife happening. And then I remember a rich fashion friend describing Hood By Air as ‘the only cool people left in New York’, which was validated by further research. I think the design, coupled with the music, was especially fresh and exciting because it was so specifically identified with New York, which in many ways had not been a hotbed of forward-thinking cultural development since the financial crisis. So it was exciting to be excited about something that reminded us of the best of New York at a time when so many things special about the city were disappearing. 

HBA defined edginess (and sexiness) during the Obama era – unsentimental exhibitionism; aggressive experimentation; the link to music; the transmutation of street wear to high fashion; the mainstreaming (or at least fashion-isation) of the ‘street silhouette’; the queer black panopticon – making this particular gaze and horizon of desire the gaze for the fashion masses. A lot of that is still relevant, though it’s different in the Trump era because the Trump White House is ‘very HBA’ in a way that resonates somewhat unhelpfully (i.e. it's a good time for HBA to be ‘on hiatus’). On the other hand, things also feel quite different now, in part because because the rise of PrEP has shifted gay night life in a pretty dramatic way that makes mixed-crowd stuff (and HBA and GHE20G0TH1K were always very mixed) feel less relevant. My favorite memory is probably hanging out in a hot tub at the rented Lower East Sude duplex before the Galvanize show while reporting a story on them for The New Yorker – a true witch's brew. 

“HBA is a headless brand for a headless world: a glam derangement, operating like a fungus thriving in the detritus of a dead planet” – DIS


Hood By Air had totally different esthetics and casting from everything I did before. (I love) everything from the moment I was involved. For the show called Daddy, we had to get some markers the day of the show to draw on the stockings (pulled over the models’ faces). Street casting was going on while we had already started make-up. It’s a kind of chaos I love to handle. And we managed. I love all the people behind the brand and I hope they come back. I miss them. 


GHE20G0TH1K was where I met all of the friends that have grown to be family. My first impression of Hood By Air was that it was very mysterious. Where was everyone getting these shirts? Are they homemade? Who are friends and who are enemies? To be honest, more than a decade later, that part's still unclear. Do you know that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda Priestly is explaining to Andy that the entire outfit she’s wearing was handpicked for her by the people in that room? That's what HBA and this circle of friends have done for everyone who thinks that they’re cool or that they're doing something cool. From fashion to music to writing to art, this group of friends ushered in the current iteration of contemporary culture and fun. 

HBA, in the beginning (and for many years) somehow struck a miraculous balance of being both inclusive and bitchy, a feeling fashion has been trying to duplicate ever since. HBA upheld a mentality that if the party was exclusive, it probably wasn’t that fun. Everyone was a part of it. That’s why when HBA did well, it felt like we all did well. When HBA showed up is when inclusivity became not only trendy but necessary. The difference though, is that it often comes across forced. It's much different from a motley group of friends that find each other because they are open people who are genuinely curious and have a small hankering for world domination. 

HBA left off on a stressful note for everyone but I still cherish the better memories, one being my 25th birthday. After a long day working at HBA, everyone came to my birthday party at Beverly's down the street from the office. Ian (Isiah) announced, ‘this is cute but, let's go have fun’ and we all went up to the Bronx to go to a strip club. Venus drove. My birthday is in December so all the girls were wearing Santa outfits. One girl did something with a candy cane that I am too shy to tell you about. The DJ announced that Hood By Air was in the building and we all got free Dom Perignon. That was a good birthday.


Hood By Air reclaimed and re-queered the danger of ‘downtown’ New York City, thoughtfully scrambling disparate codes before ever-encroaching algorithms un-thoughtfully scrambled them for us. The proximate, human network HBA emerged out of was decadent and visceral – the moodboards were alive in the clubs.


HBA is important because there was no such thing as a gay black excellence in these fashion streets. HBA is important because it wasn’t just a fashion house, or a group of kool people, it was a full culture shock. HBA is important because we were able to shine by just being ourselves, which seems to be quite difficult for creatives these days. HBA is important because it brought awareness to a generation that refused to be quiet about their skin and their sexuality. HBA is important because it shook up the fashion world and forced the Grannies of Fashion (at that time) to bow down. The idea that your t-shirt is just as important and expensive as anything else in your closet. The idea that your ‘chosen outfit’ that day wasn’t just curated, but also portrayed your personality. From Graphic Long Sleeve Tees, To Collapsed Clothing, HBA introduced the idea that your look transitions with you from that early call time (no matter what job or class you have) all through the day, to the club, and even the after party. HBA basically introduced the idea that nobody could tell you shit when you're in your looks. We also introduced the idea of creating a special type of fashion house, a church for New York’s Downtown Dolls. A full compound space for graphic illustrations, stylists, designers, filmmakers, photographers, and casting advisors to all be together, on the same page, creating History. For me, I think the impact that stuck the most with me was the fact that HBA is respected by our culture first, and the fashion world second. I’m proud to know that so many (including me) were raised under the idea that passion projects can transform into worldwide statements. HBA has influenced and impacted every collection I have seen since our last SS17 show in Paris. Are you still feeling it? That’s up to you to decide. However everything has to start somewhere, and in this case, it’s HBA.

“HBA is important because it brought awareness to a generation that refused to be quiet about their skin and their sexuality” – Ian Isiah 


Shayne and I met some years ago when I was working on my book NYC Go-Go. At that time, Shayne was known as one of the best local DJs, famous for his eclectic, wild energy and over-the-top ‘ghetto fabulousness.’ He brought the same energy to his work as a fashion designer, combining cosmopolitan club culture with the native New York tradition of hip-hop and voguing. HBA introduced a sense of urgency on social issues such as immigration, refugee crisis, gender and racial equality. HBA is one of the rare examples of progressive, socially conscious and politically involved fashion – something that has even more meaning now in Trump’s America. I think Shayne beautifully captured the gender-fluid style of his generation. For kids these days it doesn’t really matter if they wear male or female clothes, or maybe both at the same time. Shayne's Pilgrim collection, I took part in the runway show because I felt personally connected to it, thanks to my background as a gay refugee from Russia. Backstage at the HBA show I met so many amazing gender-bending kids that for a moment I felt like I was transplanted into a futuristic genderless utopia. I’m convinced that the future of humankind is gender-neutral and fashion has a special function in this Universal Transitioning.


Hood By Air felt completely of its moment, but also like an articulation of something which had always been there. I came of age first on the internet and then in New York, grappling consciously or otherwise with ideas of gender, race, class, and especially Realness. Hood By Air took these ideas from subtext to literal headlines – in fashion and beyond. Hood By Air’s provocations as a brand are now being parroted far and wide. Its elevation of streetwear specifically has become essential to the design ethos and business strategy of many global luxury brands, even heritage ones. Hood By Air was the first show I ever walked. Shayne gave me my first significant professional opportunity. I will always be in debt to him for that.


HBA shaped the decade with femme fashion on straight men. That’s everywhere now to such an extreme degree, but HBA really turned it on a hugely influential street level that watered UP across the fashion landscape, so I’m giving them credit for it. My favorite HBA moment was creating and then seeing, live, one of my best and favorite fashion moments of my career: Rihanna in pink Hood By Air opening the 2016 Video Music Awards, the year she received her Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. I came to Shayne to create something really nasty, pink, and complicated. What ended up on stage was exactly what the sketch was. I worked in ways you would never imagine to make that HBA dream come true, because I believed it was the only way and it really was. These other pop girls wish! Shout out to Shayne and Paul (Cupo, Hood By Air's Fashion Director) and Miki (Hori, design assistant on the project) too for alllll the drama and true dedication to being what’s up!

“Shayne gave me my first significant professional opportunity. I will always be in debt to him for that” – Hari Nef


Hood By Air was my first entry to, exposure to, and interest in fashion in my life. I was never interested in fashion or anything that goes along with it until I saw a Hood By Air story on DIS Magazine (where I was interning at the time). I immediately asked to intern for them after my internship with DIS was over. The best way to see how Hood By Air shaped the decade is to check Vogue Runway and look at how HBA’s DNA is embedded in almost every brand, big or small, whether they realise it or not. My time with Shayne and the rest of the Hood By Air team shaped my entire late teens to early twenties. I made lifelong friends, all who I am still close with, and work with to this day. They looked after me and we grew up together. There are honestly too many memories for me to choose a favorite, but a few include trying on the new samples with Shayne late night in the studio and walking down the hallway as if it were a runway, the time they rented a penthouse as a prep space for a New York Fashion Week show, the show/after party in Sun City in Paris, etc etc etc. HBA was my entire life for years, so it’s hard to process.


Shayne Oliver and Hood By Air marked the beginning of American POC sportswear crossing into high fashion. He paved the way for cult brands like #BEENTRILL# and Pyrex that ultimately have led to Virgil Abloh as creative director at Louis Vuitton. HBA defined a certain American POC avant garde that we are seeing flourish so beautifully today. I love his work and the melding of street culture, blackness and the avant garde. His partnership with Venus X and GHE20G0TH1K was an integral part of this creative revolution. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the HBA logo and I thought it was a Nike project. The way he co-opted the word ‘air’ and took corporate power back into his hands with such a simple graphic gesture is admirable. RESPECT!


Hood By Air felt like the first directional fashion I could witness in real time. Before those shows, I was discovering historical moments retroactively, on websites and in books. And then there was this new thing – new in every way, like fashion used to aspire to be. Everything Hood By Air did was immediately copied, which was to be expected since the clothing, the casting, the music, the sets, the parties, the personas, even the invited guests – everything felt smart, young, beautiful, current, and conceptual. It felt prescient and intelligent but not overwrought. It was clearly well-connected to the culture it was being sold to. It made so much sense, but nothing like it was happening at the time. I think it engendered a level of hardcore fashion fan acceptance. It bridged a gap between fashion elitists and the people who actually care about wearing the avant-garde, who are often natural performers or rebels, not industry insiders. HBA definitely inspired some people who may have otherwise been reticent to admit to having a conceptual fashion obsession. 

HBA was referencing Margiela and Helmut Lang and all the great 1990s anti-fashion designs, but also the consumer culture and anti-anti-fashion that followed. I remember the fashion journalists not being able to talk about it in the way that I understood it, and that, to me, made it seem even more relevant. My favorite HBA memory may be: standing outside of the V Magazine office, back when it was on Mercer Street. Shayne Oliver pointed at me from VFILES across the street and complimented me on these busted, old, Minnie Mouse, snakeskin heels I was wearing. They were the opposite of everything happening at the time: thick column heels, squared-off toes, and no straps. I remember thinking that my style was misunderstood by fashion people – I wore no makeup and never got blowouts or haircuts; usually I wasn't even carrying a purse, but sometimes I'd put on something I loved simply for being so unfashionable. That Shayne understood this little gesture meant a lot to me, in this inexplicable way. It was like he could see everyone's vulnerabilities through their fashion choices. Through his work, you can tell he’s attracted to vulnerability and understands it, at least aesthetically.



Wicked face work – the hair, makeup, accessories, and sonic elements in all ways always killed it. Insanely genius – concept-drenched and invention-rich – Hood By Air bent culture and code play. I am very drawn to the family-like environment that made up Hood By Air... such an unbelievable group of minds. I love how they interfaced with the world and the industry. It always felt authentic, raw, and unexpectedly punk. Shayne’s music: everyone must listen to Shayne’s music! Everything important sits simultaneously in the music, presentation, and designs. This is true of both Shayne and everyone who did sound design for his shows.




I set out to create new archetypes within fashions, then strict guidelines, and then redefine ones that had been misinterpreted through trends, ignorance, or the incentives of cultural and financial greed. These fading characteristics still demand misguided interpretations but they are ones I’m happier to build from moving forward. It was also a personal institution for me. I consider myself an alumnus of Hood By Air.

 (Some responses have been edited for clarity.)